Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA, H.R. 6201) was signed into law March 18, 2020. The FFCRA covered a myriad of topics, from student meals and additional federal funding to states for unexpected unemployment claims to certain tax changes. The FFCRA expired December 31, 2020. While Congress passed legislation in late 2020 extending many of the benefits provided under the FFCRA, it chose not to directly extend the two leave sections that are of specific importance to teachers and other school district employees: Expanded Family and Medical Leave (EFML) and Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL). The new legislation did extend the tax credits an employer could claim if it chose to continue providing EFML or EPSL, but the employer can decide whether to continue to provide the leave.
IF an employer chooses to provide EFML or EPSL, this is how the leave is applied: 

Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA)
The EFMLEA provides a temporary expansion of FMLA for specific novel coronavirus situations.

The law does not apply to everyone.
A school district employee must have been employed at least 30 calendar days by their employer for the law to apply to them. 

If employer and employee are covered, the law applies to a qualifying need related to a public health emergency, which “…means an employee is unable to work (or telework) due to need for leave to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age of such employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to a public health emergency.”

The law defines a public health emergency as an emergency with respect to COVID-19 declared by a federal, state, or local authority.

The law defines a child care provider as a provider who receives compensation for providing child care services on a regular basis.

If the law applies, it provides that:
  • The first 10 days of leave under the EFMLEA are unpaid. The employee may elect to substitute paid vacation, personal, medical, or sick leave.
  • After 10 days, the employee is entitled to pay at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay.
  • Maximum compensation is $200 per day, with a maximum of $10,000 in total.
  • The employee required to give notice of need for leave as soon as practicable
  • When the employee is able to return, the employee’s rights are similar to a return from FMLA, except where (1) the business has fewer than 25 employees, and (2) the employee’s position has been eliminated due to changes in operation caused by public health emergency. In this case, the employer must make reasonable efforts to re-employ the employee for one year.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA)
The EPSLA provides additional sick leave to employees who are absent due to certain specific coronavirus-related reasons.

The law applies to employees of private businesses with fewer than 500 workers or any public agency, which includes a “political subdivision of the state,” which includes independent school districts. 

The EPSLA provides that:
An employer covered by the law “… shall provide to each employee … paid sick time to the extent that the employee is unable to work (or telework)” because:
  1. The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine order.
  2. The employee has been advised to self-quarantine by a health care provider due to COVID-19.
  3. The employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis.
  4. The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to (1) or (2).
  5. The employee is caring for the son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed or the child care provider “is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions.”
  6. The employee is experiencing another condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The amount of sick leave depends on whether the employee is a full- or part-time employee.
  • Full-time employees are eligible for up to 80 hours.
  • Part-time employees are eligible for the number of hours they would normally work on average over a two-week period.
The amount of compensation is calculated based on the usual rate of pay and the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled to work, except there is a maximum benefit of:
  • $511/day and $5,110 in total for use under (1) – (3) above.
  • $200/day and $2,000 aggregate for use under (4) – (6) above.
  • For use under (4) – (6) above, the employee is compensated at two-thirds their normal rate of pay.
The EPSLA also provides:
  • The employer may not require the employee to look for or find a replacement.
  • Sick time under the EPSLA is available regardless of the amount of time the employee has been employed.
  • The employer may not require an employee to use other paid leave provided by the employer before the employee uses leave under the EPSLA.
  • It is unlawful for an employer to retaliate or discriminate against an employee for use of leave provided by the EPSLA.